A Travellerspoint blog

July 2009

Did I mention...

That I have my flights back to Australia booked? WELL I DO. You might be able to tell that I’M A TEENY TINY BIT EXTREMELY EXCITED about this. Cheap phone calls and internet! Friends! Family! Forgetting the exchange rate! Woolworths! Salad! Pharmacies! Dancing! Canberra doesn’t even have mosquitoes or open piles of rubbish! I can’t wait to come back and be a disgustingly privileged Australian woman and do such dangerous things as wear singlets in public and drive my own car places on my own!

While I’m counting down the days excitedly (3 months and 9 days as I write this!), I do also hope that the realisation that I don’t have that much time left here – combined with house being mostly in working order – will actually help me make the last three months much more enjoyable than the last three. Given what I’ve been through this year, I don’t want to invite the wrath of the universe and jinx myself by saying that (do you hear me, universe?), but I do like to have hope.

Posted by timortimes 01:25 Comments (0)

*shakes head*

Friday 10th July – 7 months, 24 days

Armando – one of our two directors – told me today, with a lot of giggling*that indicates he doesn’t quite get the seriousness of the situation, that he got tired of pulling his laptop out of its case at security gates in airports, so in Heathrow airport last week he just told security that he didn’t have a laptop, even though he had two in his bag. OF COURSE, they noticed and made him go back.

Sometimes it is interesting to see my Timorese friends’ and colleagues’ reactions to things they’re not used to, and sometimes it makes me want to put my head in my hands and moan...

  • Herminio and Armando don’t laugh, guffaw or chuckle, they giggle, there’s no two ways about it.

Posted by timortimes 01:02 Comments (0)

Western anger vs. Timorese acceptance

Thursday 9th July – 7 months, 23 days

In case you didn’t notice from all the complaining about Stuff That Is Wrong With My House, something I find difficult in Timor is the blanket acceptance of things, or lack of things, or brokenness of things. This, combined with the inability to think ahead about things one might want or need, makes for (what I believe is) unnecessarily uncomfortable or unsafe situations. For example:

I’m at work. The stapler is running out of staples. There are no more in anyone’s drawers, there is no supply cupboard. I say, ‘Hey, anyone got any more staples? We’re running out.’

The stapler runs out of staples. No one does anything, until two days later, when I ask again, someone goes ‘Oh yeah’ and buys exactly one box of staples. Why would we need more, mana?

Same thing for toilet paper. Same thing for the toilet (it used to be that it didn’t have water sometimes; now it has no water four days out of five). Same thing for the electricity in my flat, where the landlord didn’t see any problem with the fact that it had been wired up incorrectly and unsafely by her son. It works, right? If it doesn’t work, we’ll just wait for it to work again.

Of course this is an example in itself of my attitude to fixing things and discomfort, and also of Western quickness-to-anger and impatience when things aren’t working. On the other hand, although I’m sure Timorese view this with bemusement, wondering why we get cranky like a child and care so much about things, why we need to plan for the future so much when all they ever worry about is today. I guess I think that sometimes Western-style anger and impatience, if it isn’t directed at someone undeserving, is useful. And I know Timor has been a very hand-to-mouth, day-to-day, traumatised place to be for a long, long time. However … it doesn’t have to be so much like that now. I think it’s reasonable if I won’t put up with a toilet that doesn’t work or unsafe wiring, I won’t put up with not having bloody staples. So I ask someone to fix it or I go get lots of staples and then I don’t get disease, I don’t get electrocuted or set on fire and I have more time to do actual work rather than sit about waiting for someone to buy some staples.

So like all things, I think balance is needed. Sometimes it is good to be patient and not worry. Other times you need a bit of justifiable anger and discomfort to spur you to get things done.

Posted by timortimes 00:55 Comments (0)

House update

Monday 6th July – Wednesday 8th July – 7 months, 20-22 days

The score so far:

Airconditioner – we know this one already but let’s put it in – Fixed, near enough’s good enough – so far $0.00. Tradespeople don’t charge, their companies do. But I don’t know the name of these guys or their company or even where it is located; I tried to pay them after they’d done, and they said they’d return later to check it was working and I could pay then. That was five days ago. I presume they’ll turn up and demand payment eventually. I think it’s reasonable to presume this’ll be less than the $120.00 I paid to have the airconditioner uninstalled, moved and reinstalled by the first lot of idiots pretending to be airconditioner repairblokes (they were the ones who broke it! Fools!).

Electricity – A whole day spent sitting on my verandah and $544.75 later, that’s US, that’s five hundred and forty-four dollars and seventy-five cents people, I have SIX power points now instead of ONE, SIX COUNT THEM SIX MUAHAHAHA I AM POWERPOINT RICH IF CASH POOR, and the assurance that all the wiring is safe (and I can’t see any electrical tape or bare wires anywhere so I’ll believe them). It is rather good not just being able to have the powerpoints all around the flat MUAHAHA THE POWERPOINTS but also not tripping over cords in the doorway of the room next to the bathroom. (The bathroom floor is always wet – bak mandis are designed that way – and although there is a door on the antechamber, there is no door on the bathroom, so you can see why an electrician was necessary.)

Rent – You were feeling sorry for me about the aircon and the electricity still, weren’t you? Don’t feel too bad – although my landlord hasn’t bothered to offer to pay for the electricity work, she is very keen to buy my airconditioner. So she said I don’t have to pay rent this month if I’ll leave the airconditioner when I go. So, $0.00 rent and I think in my last month here, since she also wants to buy my furniture, I’ll tell her she can have it all for a similar deal or discount on the rent. Hehe.

Gas stove – Last week, after I got the gas stove working again with a refilled bottle, I got sick while using it and suspected it had a gas leak. So I haven’t been able to use it for a week and a half. This didn’t look like getting fixed at all since the idiots at Hotel Dili (where you get your gas fixed, der) said I would have to bring the stove in myself... and I don’t have a car... etc. But one of my lovely neighbours had to go to Hotel Dili herself today, and offered to take me and the stove. Cost to get it fixed (they tightened a loose bit and now it doesn’t seem to leak): $1.00.

So, especially with my new powerpoints (hurrah! Hurrah!) I am feeling rather awesome this week. There has been a lot of cross-cultural communication, waiting, sitting in the heat getting bitten by mozzies, more cross-cultural communication, patience and general wondering if I am paying people to actually do something that will last.

But now it seems I have all the major stuff done, so that makes me very happy (fingers crossed, godDAMN you don’t know how much I don’t wanna jinx myself there). I still need a new surge box – about $40 – I could still get the lights fixed (apparently it’s the fitting not the light) but that would have to be done by the happy chargers at Tam Electrics, and I think I’ll save up before I call them again. Plus the lights have been working ok for a couple of days. And, finally, I need to get my phones checked – apparently they’re not receiving all calls from Australia, which is a worry, but hopefully can be sorted out. Oh and the prank phone call idiots. But they never worried me and they haven’t called for a few days anyway. I’m leaving the plumbing of my flat alone – the water does work most days and crap water pressure is not a dangerous thing to live with anyway.

So, my flat is cool-ish, I can cook in my kitchen AND my antechamber (that’s where the fridge and stove live) without tripping over cords, and I don’t have a 6 outlet powerboard dangling above my bedhead anymore. It is MARVELLOUS.

Posted by timortimes 22:51 Comments (0)

Lotta yang energy

Sunday 5th July – 7 months, 19 days

I realised this morning that I live within 5 minutes walking distance of 3 cemeteries. Now I’m quite fond of cemeteries, and I particularly think that the other Timorese ones here are quite pretty, but I think the Chinese one here is the best yet.

I already knew about the Muslim one and the big Timorese one (Santa Cruz – where there was a massacre of peacefully protesting Timorese by Indonesian military, around 17th November, 1991). However, I went for a walk this morning, to find out what the big interesting-looking blue and red wall was up another road – and it turns out it’s the Chinese cemetery, which I’ve been past before but never been into. The gates were open, so in I went.
I was a little worried someone might come over and get angry with me for taking photos (I’ve given up trying to predict what people won’t like me to take photos of, I just get prepared to run now whenever I see someone angry approaching), I mean, I figure I can just apologise and stop taking photos. Also I was wearing my bright red hat*! And shorts! And a pink shirt! Didn’t exactly blend in.

But then I looked around and thought, ah no, actually, I blend right in. Pink and green and blue and yellow and red graves everywhere, higgledy-piggledy; no chance anyone would find me. Some were very ornate and enormous, with sweet tiling jobs; one had an awesome tiled picture of Jesus. And, best of all, with frangipanis and other delicate trees all throughout. Fabulous place to come back with a book and read. The few people in there seemed occupied with sweeping and cleaning the graves – I guess the Chinese are another group that really respect their dead – and my presence didn’t seem to make anyone put the ‘Argh bad malae!’ face on.

Like all cemeteries, lots of it looked a little shabby, a little worn; but it was very clean and qui-et compared to the rest of Dili. I thought that the wealth of Chinese people in Timor was reflected, with the large percentage of very spiffy graves.

I also thought it was interesting to see where cultures collide – on the few graves that had writing in Roman characters, every single person had a Timorese first name and a Chinese last name (Fernanda Lay, Carmelita Leong – that first one being the name of a big department building near the Palacio).

  • This hat gets comments; ‘sensible’ from Australians, peals of laughter from everyone else. It matches almost nothing else that I own, especially my work clothes. Makes it easy for people to spot me, though. And, oh yeah, STOPS THE SKIN CANCER.

Posted by timortimes 22:46 Comments (1)

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